Q: Any tips to help me “green” up my beauty regimen, without making me look like the “before” picture in an extreme makeover?

A: My sister once dragged me with her to a recruiting session for Mary Kay Cosmetics. Before dozing off to sleep, I remember an extremely bubbly woman telling the crowd that, regardless of the economy, lipstick sales always remain steady.

Neither my sister nor I earned a pink Cadillac for our sales expertise, but those words stuck with me. While you may be hard-pressed to part with tools in your magical beauty arsenal, here are a few tips that help make the world a little greener.

Use it or lose it: As a recovering product junkie, I’ve fallen prey to more than a few ads promising super-thick lashes, reduced wrinkles and plump lips. In the end, most of those beauty "necessities" wound up half-used and taking up space in my bathroom drawer, weekend handbag or glove compartment. Truth be told, there are about four items I use every day: moisturizer, gloss, eyeliner and mascara. Get real about the products you really use, then get thee to a recycling bin with the rejects.

Read the label: A quick review of the product labels in your makeup kit may jump-start the downsizing process. The Environmental Working Group reviewed ingredients in a wealth of beauty brands, from pricey Crème La Mer to bargain basement Oil of Olay. Look for your favorite products in their “Skin Deep” database. Some common ingredients in beauty products — fragrances, methylparabens and BHT — may cause more wrinkles than they are trying to correct.

Start on the inside: Grandma was right; you are what you eat. Feed your skin with a healthy dose of fresh fruits and veggies instead of processed food. It also pays to stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water.

Nurture the outside: Pamper your skin by investing in a quality sunscreen and a good loofah. Exfoliate in the shower and follow up with a fragrance-free moisturizer or body oil. It also pays to avoid unnecessary sun exposure. Trust me and not your tanorexic girlfriend: Bronze skin does not hide cellulite any better than pasty white skin.

Try a make-under: A makeup artist at your favorite cosmetics counter can provide tips on creating low-maintenance looks that require less time and fewer products. If you can’t possibly bear to part with your moisturizer, mascara, eyeliner, eye shadow, bronzer, lipstick, foundation and pressed powder, then at least give your skin weekends off. Use that time to clean those brushes and applicators with soapy water.

Minimize: Avoid travel-size portions unless you really are traveling. That one change can help alleviate unnecessary additions to a landfill near you. When you do stock up on products, look for companies that offer recycling programs. MAC Cosmetics offers incentives like free lipstick when you return six empty containers. Origins also has launched a recycling program and will accept empty containers from any cosmetic company.

Shop 'green': Retailers understand that there's money to be made by thinking green. You'll find soap, moisturizers and other beauty necessities from Earth-friendly lines such as J.R. Watkins Naturals, Tom's of Maine and Burt's Bees on shelves at local drugstores, grocery chains and mega-marts. Time to purge — and splurge — with purpose.

Got a question? Submit a question to Mother Nature and one of our many experts will track down the answer. Plus: Visit our advice archives to see if your question has already been tackled.

Photo: Green_Bubbles/Flickr

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